An electrical problem at the city’s Office of Unified Communications brought DC’s primary radio system for emergency responders to a halt on Monday night around 7:15pm. According to NBC4, system went down for about five hours, causing DC Fire/EMS and MPD to default back to their backup radios.
DC operates a trunked radio system for emergency responders, meaning that there is one master control facility for all the radio communications for the city. There are several transmission facilities, but it’s all routed through the computers near the big antenna cluster by McMillan Reservoir. The whole system went down due to a power problem, forcing responders to their backup radios. While there was confusion for a short while, the city’s policies for maintaining backup radio channels with Arlington and Montgomery County on the 800Mhz band allowed for an easy switch back to working communications centers. DC Fire/EMS set up a temporary command center at 6th and F St NW to coordinate extra assistance during the five hour outage.